With two inches of rain in two days and another smaller system on the way we fungiphiles can declare the season open, we hope. The kickoff is after the first good soaking rain, that part is done. The second is up to the mycelium, the fibrous plant/animal that lives mostly underground. Think of an apple tree just before the apples burst from the buds, only now in your mind, flip the apple tree upside down and bury it. The fruit reaches out and bursts from the foliage, duff, the leaf litter, and grows up to be a mushroom. The mycelium still lives happily underground. You have, most likely, come across mycelium whilst digging in the ground or flipping over a board that has ground contact. A funny looking white, tentacle, webby mass usually passed off as some kind of rot looks you in the eye. When the mother decides the time is right to go forth and multiply, the many tentacles sprout little, proto-mushrooms. That is when we beasties that love to eat mushrooms are stimulated to go a-hunting. Typically, it takes ten days to two weeks for the first mushrooms to arise. One of the favorite mushrooms to find is the Golden Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius This mushroom peeks out from under the leaf litter, Duff, often in a slight arc formed by its siblings. The Chanterelle is an easy mushroom to identify, for a beginner and a joy to look at. Look for them under Live Oak clustered, or in fairy-rings, under Quercus agrifolia (coast live oak), less commonly with Lithocarpus densiflorus (tanbark oak) and Umbellularia californica (California bay); fruiting from fall to early spring; occasionally along the coast in late summer from fog drip.
Also on the menu is the fantastic Bolete, a choice edible that grows in some form the world over, at least in the temperate forests. This beauty has many names, in Italy it is called ‘little pig’, Porcini, in France the Bolete is called, ‘Cep’ The Germans call it ‘rock mushroom’, ‘Stein Pilza’ the Brits, ‘Penny bun’. When the Bolete sprouts you are also likely to find the delicious Amanita Calyptroderm, common name, Coccoera. This one is not for beginners; the species includes some deadly poisonous mushrooms. Others will be popping up as the season wears on and their time comes.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Mycological Society. Look for his column each week in The Community Voice.